In spite of so many other strategies emerging, attending a conference remains one of the most effective ways to drive new business. And that’s in so many ways – from generating new leads and referral sources, developing strategic partnerships to discovering entirely new markets to work with.
That said, you might not know how to get the most out of that next conference you’re attending. You wonder how to prepare for it, what to do on the day and how to keep conversations going after you’ve come back to your office.
Worry not. We have you covered.
From this guide, you’ll learn everything about using conferences to drive more business. I’ll also show you how to use events to establish new strategic partnerships, strengthen your existing relationships, push existing deals forward, and generate new business leads.
But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
Why Attend Industry Conferences In the First Place?
I can give have four big reasons, actually:
- Conferences help you grow the business, obviously. You meet hundreds, if not more, like-minded people. You get a chance to introduce yourself, build relationships with them, exchange business tips and initiate conversations leading to referrals.
- You gain new insights and knowledge. With tens of expert talks, you’re bound to learn something new. It might be new technology or insight to give your MSP a competitive edge or a business insight to help you manage and market it better.
- You keep up to date on the industry. And it doesn’t matter if you attend an even for MSPs or a one focusing on your target industry, you’ll gain a new perspective on what’s driving it forward.
- You can meet and network with your target accounts. This point is particularly true when you attend a conference in your clients’ industry. Your prospects will be there too, most likely. And the social nature of the conference will make it easier to engage with them.
But how do you make it all happen? Let find out.
Part I. How to Prepare for Attending a Conference
I divided this guide into three sections, deliberately.
First, I discuss what to do before the conference, and prepare yourself to make the most out of the event. Then, I show you what to do on the day. Finally, you and I look at the best strategies to strengthen those new business relationships you’ve developed after the event’s over.
In this section, we look at strategies to help you prepare for attending a conference.
#1. Review the Event’s Agenda
Reviewing the conference’s agenda will not only show you what’s happening, but it will also reveal who’s going to be there, and when. Plus, the conference agenda is often a good conversation starter with the people you meet on the day.
Take a look at the event’s website to decide:
- Which talks you’d like to attend.
- Which speakers you’d like to connect with. Attending their talk and referencing some information you’ve heard them mention is a great way to connect when you approach them at the event.
#2. Review the Conference’s Setup
If you want to make the most out of your conference attendance, then find out how the event’s going to work beforehand. Check the venue layout so you don’t waste time trying to find different places. See if the conference offers any meeting facilities all in an effort the find the best places to setup get togethers.
SaaStock, a major SaaS industry conference offers dedicated meeting areas and coworking spaces, for example. Knowing whether your event uses a similar setup will make it easier to set up meetings with prospects. You won’t have to send messages back and forth, wondering where you will meet.
#3. Download the Event’s App (if they have one, of course)
Most conferences offer a dedicated smartphone app to give you quick access to the agenda, conference information but also, other attendees. Some apps even let you connect with those people beforehand.
If that’s the case with the event you’re attending, make the most out of the opportunity. Fill in your profile, including the photo, and start networking with your target accounts even before the conference.
PRO TIP: Reaching out via LinkedIn to folks you are seeing on the app is a great way to break the ice.
#4. Reach Out to Current Connections
If you know that someone you’ve been in touch already will be at the conference too, reach out to them. Offer to meet. But don’t make it about the project you might have been discussing. Rather, turn this as an opportunity to have an informal chat in a friendly, industry-related setting.
By doing so, you’ll show those people how much you care about their business. You’ll also communicate how much you’re willing to learn more about it. Finally, you’ll get to see them in person, network, and build a connection that might help you move the deal forward.
Part II. How to Get the Most Out of the Conference on the Day
You’ve arrived. The place is buzzing already. Here’s what to do.
#1. Register ASAP
The registration desk will be packed, surely. So, make sure that you go through the process right away. This way, you’ll have the head start on anyone else to explore the room and start networking.
#2. Explore the Venue
In particular, locate all the places that matter to you on the day. If you set up to meet a potential MSP partner, find where that place beforehand. This way, you won’t be late for the meeting, just because you couldn’t find the specified location.
#2. Connect with Current Connections
Are any of your clients or close connections exhibiting at the conference? Go to them right away, even just to say hi.
The event is your opportunity to strengthen the relationship with them too. You’ll show your dedication to the connection you have, and willingness to move it forward.
#3. Attend Any Prescheduled Meetings
If you had a chance to set any meetings already, attend them. Always come in early. Don’t let the other party wait for you.
When you meet new people, make it all about them, not you. A conference is not a time to hard sell. Rather, use the opportunity to meet with those people in person to learn more about them, their problems and challenges. Take notes and follow up with more information about your service after the event. And then, ask for another meeting.
#4. Enjoy and Network, Like Crazy
It doesn’t matter how many meetings and opportunities you’ve set up beforehand, there’s always an opportunity to do more on the day. Give yourself a goal – it can be as simple as meeting 10 new people a day and setting 1 follow up, get specific!
PRO TIP: If the conference has organized any afterparty or happy hour events, attend those too, if possible. The most high-value networking happens there, not on the conference floor.
Part III. What to Do After the Event
Conferences are intense events. You spend a day or two in the venue, absorbing the insights and meeting people. But then, they’re over. You’re back in the office, wondering what to do next.
Here’s what to do.
#1. Transfer All Your Notes and Lead Data to the CRM
This is hugely important. Add all the information you’ve collected during the event – contact details of any new people you’ve met, notes from meetings and even hearsay you gathered about current clients – to the CRM.
By doing so, you’ll ensure that you and your team process those leads using the most up to date information about them.
#2. Post the Conference Write Up to Your Blog
I’m surprised how rarely businesses use this strategy. But as you’ll see shortly, publishing what you’ve learned during the event will do more than just fill in your website with content.
So, write down your experiences. Describe new insights you’ve picked up, interesting startups you’ve encountered and anything else that made the conference so special.
#3. Send the Write Up to Current Clients and Hot Leads
Send it even to people who didn’t attend the event. Why, because it’s a great opportunity to continue a conversation with them. Instead of sending generic follow-ups, you offer them value – The insights from an industry conference that could benefit their businesses too.
#4. Follow up with New Connections
You can use the write up to do it too.
But if you offered to send them specific information – your company’s brochure, for example – do that first.
However, if you didn’t make such arrangements, then send them the write-up or any other relevant information. You’ll remind them of what they’ve learned at the event too, and keep the conversation going.
With the tips above, you’re ready to make the most out of the next conference you’re attending.